HARARE – Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has set the cat among the pigeons within the warring ruling Zanu PF, revealing that he has held meetings with the country’s feared military officials as part of his bid to allow the smooth transfer of power if he wins next year’s watershed national elections.
This comes as the dogged former labour union leader is on the cusp of wrapping up an electoral pact with smaller opposition parties, which analysts say could see both President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF defeated in the eagerly-awaited 2018 national polls.
“I have met with the church, political leaders from across the entire spectrum, the army, war veterans, civil servants and leaders of various social networks and civic groups who all agree on the need for a positive trajectory for this country that we love.
“We are very much aware, of course, that the stakes are high and that the regime will invest scarce national resources into nothing else but power retention.
“We must be ready for them, armed with no other weapon except our sheer unity and a collective resolve for change. All we need is a formidable unity that spans from the top to the very grassroots of our nation,” Tsvangirai said on Monday.
“The change we seek will be good for every Zimbabwean, even for those who have tenaciously fought and frowned upon any prospect for change over the years. I wish to re-state that we mean no harm to anyone and none of us should feel endangered by the change we seek,” he added.
Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi had not responded to questions sent to him by the time of going to print.
Analysts have consistently said Mugabe and his deeply divided ruling Zanu PF have in the past managed to thwart Tsvangirai because of the influence of the military and war veterans in Zimbabwe’s body politic.
They have also said the increasingly frail nonagenarian was saved from losing out to the former prime minister in the disputed 2008 polls through military intervention.
Tsvangirai beat Mugabe hands down in the March 2008 presidential election, which saw results being withheld for a suspiciously long six weeks, amid widespread allegations of ballot fiddling and manipulation.
When the widely discredited results of that poll were eventually announced, Tsvangirai was forced into a presidential run-off which he pulled out of following massive intimidation and violence which saw hundreds of his supporters being murdered in cold blood.
Mugabe would go on to stand in an embarrassing and widely condemned one-man race in which he declared himself the winner.
However, Sadc and the rest of the international community would not accept the poll, forcing the nonagenarian to share power with Tsvangirai for five years to prevent the country from imploding completely.
Former State Security minister and one of the founders of the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) party, Didymus Mutasa — who was for decades a close confidante of Mugabe — later lifted the lid on that election’s rot, following his sacking from Zanu PF, revealing that the nonagenarian remained in power through chicanery and brute force.
Analysts have repeatedly opined that Tsvangirai would find it difficult to govern even if he wins elections due to suspicion by Mugabe’s fearful securocrats.
They have often referred to the statement by the late commander of the defence forces — Vitalis Gava Zvinavashe — who in 2002 infamously said the military would not salute someone without liberation credentials, in apparent reference to Tsvangirai.
“Any change designed to reverse the gains of this revolution will not be supported …
“We wish to make it very clear to all Zimbabwean citizens that the security organisations will only stand in support of those political leaders that will pursue Zimbabwean values, traditions and beliefs for which thousands of lives were lost …
“Let it be known that the highest office in the land is a straightjacket whose occupant is expected to observe the objectives of the liberation struggle.
“We will therefore not accept, let alone support or salute, anyone with a different agenda that threatens the very existence of our sovereignty, our country and our people,” Zvinavashe said then.
A large cross-section of Zimbabweans — including civic society and political analysts — has welcomed Tsvangirai’s inclusion of former vice president Joice Mujuru in the talks to form the country’s planned opposition coalition.
Tsvangirai and Mujuru have been working with other opposition parties behind the scenes to finalise the mooted coalition.
Recently Tsvangirai signed memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with Mujuru and his former secretary general Welshman Ncube in developments that were described as significant steps towards finalising the electoral alliance.
Mujuru, who now leads the National People’s Party (NPP) and whose liberation struggle nom de guerre was Teurai Ropa (Spill Blood), and whose late husband Solomon was the first black post-independence army commander, is seen as providing the much-needed bridge that opposition parties have been missing to ensure the smooth transfer of power if they win the 2018 elections like they did in 2008.
In his statement, Tsvangirai says he is not seeking to build a coalition with political parties only but with all Zimbabweans regardless of their backgrounds so as to extricate the country from the current troubles.
“I say this because we cannot commit the same grievous mistake made by our colleagues when they came into office in 1980. They thought the attainment of independence was the destination when in fact 1980 actually marked the beginning of a critical phase of the struggle. They came in without a cogent plan but we have to be very clear about what we will do well ahead of the next election.
“We want to build a huge coalition for change that goes beyond party slogans; a coalition rooted in the people in their various social stations where they continue to slug it out under very difficult circumstances,” Tsvangirai said.
Analysts maintain that a united opposition, fighting with one purpose, can finally bring to an end Mugabe’s long rule, especially at a time that the nonagenarian is fighting to keep together his warring Zanu PF.